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The evolving role of the business technologist in the AI era

By Tamarah Usher and Gil Villavicencio
A group of employees working on laptops at a table.

The changing professional landscape

Technology and business strategy lines have blurred in today’s disruptive business landscape. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) transform companies’ operations and deliver value. Business leaders can no longer remain tech neophytes. While extensive technical expertise is not required, a foundational understanding of AI’s capabilities, limitations, and potential applications is vital for effective leadership and strategic decision-making.

We are currently experiencing the third wave of digital transformation. It is powered by innovations like the Internet of Things, machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics. User-friendly generative AI democratizes technological capabilities, enabling even nontechnical professionals to generate instant data-driven insights, code to automate, creative assets, and much more. Early adopters of AI have already capitalized on its transformative potential to gain efficiency and disrupt their daily work. The lesson is clear: integrate AI strategically into business and operations or risk rapid obsolescence.


The rise of the business technologist

Dismissing AI as a passing fad or solely the domain of technical experts would be unwise. The rise of hybrid business leaders, including those without technical backgrounds, is imperative. While not expected to become AI experts or developers overnight, all leaders must familiarize themselves with emerging technologies and leverage their business acumen to apply them effectively.

Thriving in the AI era demands a foundational understanding of technology and business. Success requires a commitment to continuous learning and a harmonious partnership between business and technology leaders to enable streamlined AI integration. With the right approach, companies can minimize risks, optimize costs, and maximize the strategic value AI delivers.

Business technologists play a crucial bridging role between business and technology. With competencies spanning both domains, they spearhead AI integration initiatives, shaping technology roadmaps aligned to business goals. Their versatile skill set and holistic perspective equip them to guide digital transformation powered by AI.


How business technologists bridge the gap between tech and business

For business leaders committed to continuous learning, the journey starts by exploring fundamental questions. What foundational knowledge about AI is essential? What business problems or processes can AI address most effectively? How can tools like robotic process automation immediately boost productivity? Mastery of AI is not confined to technical experts but does require concerted effort and commitment over time. Consider AI as a complementary tool that amplifies human intelligence and expertise, freeing up time for deeper analysis and strategic decision-making.

The path of continuous learning in AI may seem intimidating at first, but take it step-by-step. Adopt an experimental mindset—don’t be afraid to try new AI applications and fail fast if they don’t work. Recognize where AI excels in augmenting productivity while acknowledging its limitations—approach AI as a collaborative partner that can push human potential and performance further.

Follow a structured roadmap tailored to your leadership goals to maximize your AI learning journey. Identify priority knowledge gaps and motivations for upskilling. Focus on building competency in five fundamental dimensions of AI: data analytics, machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision, and robotics. Start with simple, low-risk pilot projects to get comfortable.

Cultivating an agile, growth-focused mindset is key. Remain open to unlearning outdated notions and integrating new technological capabilities. Drive an organizational culture of curiosity, collaboration, and continuous learning. Lead by example in upskilling yourself and empowering teams with the latest AI tools and training. The future competitiveness of the organization depends on building our collective intelligence. Approach AI mastery as an ongoing odyssey rather than a onetime project. The rewards will be boundless.


Mapping your personal roadmap to business technologist transformation

Becoming an effective business technologist requires continuous learning across multiple dimensions. By taking a structured approach, you can successfully integrate AI capabilities into your leadership tool kit. Follow this personalized roadmap to accelerate your transformation into a tech-savvy leader prepared for the future.

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Strategy alignment and orchestration

  • Set clear goals for integrating AI into your role and align to business objectives
  • Create a timeline and roadmap for your AI education and application
  • Identify quick wins and longer-term priorities for AI adoption
  • Manage your time and resources to balance AI learning with core responsibilities effectively

Business and customer value

  • Analyze your role to identify how AI could enhance value for customers
  • Research AI use cases in your industry that deliver tangible business value
  • Prioritize high-impact AI applications that align with business needs
  • Measure results and ROI of AI implementations

Security, ethics, and governance

  • Learn key protocols for ethical AI system design
  • Understand regulations governing AI use in your industry
  • Adopt rigorous data governance and testing procedures
  • Embed AI ethics principles into all applications

Technology and data

  • Master fundamentals of AI approaches like machine learning
  • Develop a working knowledge of AI development platforms
  • Strengthen core data analysis and engineering skills
  • Experiment hands-on with AI tool kits and sandbox environments

Organization and workforce

  • Embrace a growth mindset and model continuous AI learning
  • Share knowledge and collaborate with technical teams on AI
  • Align your team structure and roles to support AI integration
  • Advocate for AI training and development organization-wide

Committing to ongoing education across these five dimensions will equip you with the mindset, skills, and knowledge to thrive as a business technologist. View this as a lifelong journey rather than a onetime training program. Lean into the learning process and trust it will lead to enormous dividends for your career and organization. With a laser focus on delivering business value, you will transform into a pioneering leader of the new era.


Continuous learning through immersive collaboration

Business leaders must embrace continuous, immersive learning alongside technical experts to navigate the rapid pace of AI advancement.

Research: Reading articles isn’t enough. Immerse yourself in the world of AI through firsthand observation and interaction. Shadow data scientists as they build models. Witness users interacting with AI systems. This ethnographic inquiry brings theoretical knowledge to life and nurtures empathy.

Education: Expand beyond internal partners. Diversity of thought from cross-functional collaborations yields the richest insights. Immerse yourself in the daily work of technical and creative roles. Shadow product designers, data scientists, and UX researchers. Trust their on-the-ground expertise to guide your understanding. Pursue formal training through AI certifications, university partnerships, and other programs to complement experiential learning.

Workshops: Interactive sessions can break down silos, but simply attending a workshop won’t cut it. Fully immerse yourself through hands-on, collaborative projects with cross-functional teams. Shed preconceived notions and approach with a beginner’s mindset, ready to learn. Allow yourself to be surprised and challenged. Blend your business expertise with openness and curiosity.

True mastery requires vulnerability, concerted effort over time, and a passion for learning. But the payoff is immense. You will gain a more nuanced perspective of AI’s potential, fostering trust. And you’ll build connections vital for integrating AI across the business.

As a leader in the era of AI, adopting this immersive learning mindset will be the key to staying ahead of disruption. Siloed perspectives have no place in guiding AI innovation. Lead with humility, embrace shared expertise, and commit to learning in the trenches. This will equip you to shape your organization’s AI-powered future confidently. The real magic happens when technologists and business leaders immerse themselves in each other’s worlds. Barriers crumble, integrated mindsets emerge, and you unlock AI’s immense potential. Take the plunge into continuous learning, and soon you’ll be guiding AI innovation like a true business technologist.


This blog post was originally published here.


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